Needs Assessment of Agricultural, Environmental, and Social Systems of Small Farmers in Chimaltenango, Guatemala
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Providing support for the agricultural development of small farmers is the main goal of the project Agriculture in Guatemala: Technology, Education and Commercialization (AGTEC). To accomplish this, it is necessary, to identify the characteristics and needs of participants, as well as their environmental, social, and farming conditions. Through this study, two case studies were conducted to identify and analyze the context of small farmers of the region. This research study used qualitative and participative methods, such as interviews, focus groups, and observation, to gather data about the participants' thoughts and opinions concerning their situations. The case study systemically gathered information about the conditions and needs of small farmers to provide a better understanding of the people and their interactions within the farm systems. This needs assessment showed how the farmers' decisions about adoption are related to their interactions on their farms. Therefore, this study analyzed the system, as a whole, to identify priorities among different critical components that will provide optimum results for beneficiaries. These priorities will allow the identification of appropriate technologies that will satisfy the needs of small farmers according to their local, cultural, and economic conditions. The appropriate technologies need to be diffused among the farmers for adoption. Rogers observed that technologies that are diffused by opinion leaders are adopted by their peers. Thus, the second case study analyzed the social networks and their leaders to observe their potential to support the diffusion process of technologies. The study revealed the presence of diverse social networks, one provided by the political structure, others based on organized groups of farmers and other informal networks formed by independent farmers. Data also showed that opinion leaders have desired roles and characteristics among their networks. Therefore diffusion of innovations through formal and non-formal leaders represents a promising strategy as they are recognized and respected by peers. The diffusion of innovations through opinion leaders promotes the active participation of local members, validates the innovations, and sustains adoption over time. Therefore, the analysis of the social networks and selection of opinion leaders supports the diffusion process of the AGTEC project in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.